Chapter Twelve

I ran as fast as my legs could carry me, faster than I’d ever run before.  The forest flashed past me in a blur, and the only sound that I could hear was the wind whistling past my ears.  In the back of my mind, it dimly registered that this newfound speed was a result of my new form.  My human legs could never have run this fast.

 

I gripped my spear in my right hand, my palm slick with nervous sweat.  I had killed many creatures with that spear, but never had I taken a human’s life.  I had a feeling that was going to change today.

 

In the distance, I began to hear the sounds of battle.  Voices I recognized as my former tribesmen shouted war cries and Bastian’s wolves howled.  I burst into a small clearing and skidded to a stop.

 

It was absolute carnage!  Wolves and men lay dead all over the forest floor, and many more still tangled with each other.  I saw humans lying on the ground, nursing bites or scratch wounds, and I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sympathy for them.  They, too, were soon going to become Hybrids.  And just like me, they hadn’t had any choice in the matter.

 

But that didn’t matter at the moment.  Bastian’s pack, our pack, our FAMILY, was still under attack.  Raising my spear, I leaped directly into the fray.  Twirling and spinning my weapon, I struck several of my former tribesmen with it until they either retreated or lost consciousness.  I couldn’t tell if they recognized me in my new form or not.  Part of me hoped they didn’t so they wouldn’t think of me as a traitor.  The other part hoped they knew exactly who I was so they could understand whose side I had finally chosen.

 

A man came running at my with a battered woodcutting axe.  He swung it, intending to cut off my head, but I ducked underneath it before springing back up, my fist connecting with his chin.  He fell backwards, a couple of teeth falling out of his mouth.  I spun around just in time to find a man sneaking up on me with a knife, and I whacked him firmly on the head with the butt of my spear.  In the midst of all the chaos, one thought rose to my head above all others.

 

Where was Bastian?

 

I fought my way through the battlefield in search of the wolf-boy, desperately praying that I wouldn’t find him dead.  It was not difficult to defeat these humans.  Very few of them were skilled fighters, and even those that were did not share my enhanced speed and agility.  Using these advantages, I fought my way up one end of the battle to the other, but saw no trace of the alpha.

 

Suddenly, there was a sharp crack, and one of the wolves closest to me was knocked off its feet, dead.  A small hole had been drilled into its side, and a thin trail of blood leaked out of it.  I turned to where the noise had come from, and saw Edward standing in the distance, far away from the battle, holding some sort of metal object.

 

It took me a moment to recognize the gun.  There were stories told of those weapons from before the fall of society, but such things were extremely rare these days.  Where Edward had gotten it wasn’t important, though.  What mattered was that he was already loading another bullet into it.

 

With a screech of fury, I began to leap over the fighters, both human and wolf.  I didn’t have time to fight my way there.  Who knew how many more wolves he would have shot by then?  As I drew nearer, though, he noticed me and turned the gun in my direction.  I jumped up and cartwheeled to the right, trying to break his aim, but I couldn’t be sure if he would miss me or not until after he’d fired.

 

Luckily, Edward didn’t see Bastian coming up behind him.  With a snarl of rage, my wolf-boy pounced on him.  They rolled around on the ground for a few moments, and while they did I felt my spirits rise.  Edward was old and weak, no match for Bastian!

 

But then I heard the crack of his gun once more, and Bastian screamed in pain.

 

“No!” I yelled, bounding across the battlefield towards them.

 

Edward turned to look at me, a scowl on his face, “So, they Feral wench still lives!”

 

I ignored him, and knelt by my fallen sweetheart.  I ran my hands over his body until I finally found the bullet wound.  I gave a quick sigh of relief when I discovered it in his side.  It was a shallow wound, and would most likely not be fatal, but Bastian was still out of commission until we got the bullet removed.

 

“Eve?” he asked, opening his eyes through the pain.

 

“Yes, it’s me!” I said, trying to sound reassuring.  “It’s going to be okay.”

 

“You came back,” he said, almost as if he didn’t believe it.

 

“I came back,” I repeated.  “And I’ll never leave again, no matter what I turn into!”

 

Despite the pain he was obviously in, a smile crept across Bastian’s face.

 

“That is absolutely disgusting!” Edward spat from behind me.  “I should have known you would have fallen in love with another animal like yourself!”

 

Rage erupted within me, and I slowly rose to my feet, spear in hand.

 

“Stay here,” I said to Bastian, as if he were going to go anywhere.  “I’ll be right back.”

 

But Edward wasn’t going to have any of that, and he raised his gun again.  I immediately leaped upwards, just as he pulled the trigger, and the bullet passed harmlessly underneath me.

 

“You are absolutely hideous!” the old man ranted, taking a step back and aiming again.  I rolled out of the way, avoiding the bullet a second time.  “Have you no shame, you filthy beast?”

 

With a roar more like a panther than any I had ever made before, I pounced at him, raising my spear to drive it into his chest.  But Edward’s hand was quicker than I’d believed, and the gun went off again.  This time, the bullet struck my spear, breaking it cleanly in half.  The impact also knocked me backwards off of my feet and onto my back.

 

“Now I get to do what should have been done long ago,” the old man cackled, pointing his gun at me for the last time.  I closed my eyes, anticipating the end.

 

The gun went off.  I heard a cry of pain.  It took me a moment to realize it wasn’t my own.  My eyes snapped open, and I saw Orville lying on the ground in front of me, clutching his chest in pain.

 

“Orville!” I shouted, scrambling to my feet to check on him.  I knelt beside him, but it was too late.  He was already dead.  Given his life for the ones he cared for the most, just like he’d promised.

 

I realized that the sounds of battle behind me had ceased.  I glanced that way, and saw that everyone, man and beast, had stopped fighting and were now staring at Edward in horror.

 

“He shot Orville!” one man shouted accusingly.

 

“No!” Edward, retorted, his face blanching.  “He got in the way!”

 

“You told us he was senile!” someone else yelled.

 

“Why didn’t you make him get out of the way?”

 

“You just wanted to finish him off!”

 

“No, no!” Edward shouted.  “He betrayed us!  He aided the animals!  He got what he deserved!”

 

The old man turned towards me now, “And now I’m going to finish what he interrupted!”

 

He raised his gun before I had a chance to react and pulled the trigger.

 

CLICK.  CLICK.  CLICK.

 

“What?” Edward exclaimed, dropping the gun.  “No, it can’t be!”

 

The elder tried to turn and run, but I caught up to him before he could take two steps.  I grabbed him by his collar and lifted him off the ground with ease.

 

“Let me go, foul beast!” he screamed, thrashing around.

 

“Edward, you’ve caused more death today than these Ferals ever have!” I accused him.

 

“I am only doing what is right!” he shot back, conceited to the end.  “The human race must be protected!”

 

“By taking the lives of innocents?” I demanded.

 

“What are you going to do?” he growled.  “Kill me?”

 

I was about to say yes, but a weak call from behind me caught my attention.

 

“Eve,” Bastian was saying.  “Eve, no.  Don’t do it.”

 

My heart melted.  Even in this much pain, even knowing that this man had caused the deaths of so many of his family, Bastian didn’t want me to lower myself to his level.

 

“No,” I decided, turning to face the dangling old man again.  An idea formed in my head.  “I’m going to make you go through everything you’ve put us through.  Then maybe you’ll finally understand what you’ve done.”

 

Edward’s face blanched as he caught my meaning.  Before he could struggle again, I stretched my neck out and sank my sharp feline teeth into his shoulder.  The old man cried out in pain, and I released him, allowing him to crumple to the forest floor in agony.

 

“No, no, no!” he screamed in disbelief, looking at his shoulder in terror.  Then he got to his feet and ran away.  Nobody pursued him.  Whatever Edward eventually became, I never saw him again.

 

I turned to my former tribesmen, “Get out of here!” I ordered.  “And don’t ever come into this forest again.  From now on, these woods belong to Bastian and his family!”

 

Without a backwards glance, the tribe retreated.  I have no idea where they went, but I’m sure they’re okay.  They’ve survived this long, so I doubt they’ve succumbed to the elements just yet.  My duty done, I turned and ran to Bastian’s side.

 

“Good job,” he said, his voice strained.

 

“Just hold still,” I told him, reaching for his wound.  I’ll spare you the bloody details, suffice to say that I managed to get the bullet out of his body.  The wound was painful, but it wasn’t deep.  Bastian would heal quickly.

 

With that, I wrapped my arms around my wolf-boy’s neck and pulled him into a kiss.

 

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